As far as rivers go, the Beas is one of the most beautiful rivers, flowing down mountain valleys and providing rich nutrition to soil in the plains. Unfortunately, it has also been caught in a raging dispute between states
WORDS: N.B. RAO
As a king, Alexander the Great would never shirk from pushing ahead aggressively with his forays into different parts of the world, overtaking foreign territories, mountains, deserts and water bodies. But for him, it was a river that would bring the virtual end of his worldly ambitions and destroy his career.
In 326 BC, Alexander and his troops were heading eastwards into India, defeating other kings and wiping out their armies. He had destroyed Sangala (also known as Sagala or Sakala), and his troops had reached the banks of the ‘Hyphasis,’ better known as the Beas in the sub-continent.
But the mighty river, in full flow during the 326 BC monsoon, spelt disaster for Alexander and his troops. “I observe gentlemen that when I would lead you on a new venture you no longer follow me with your old spirit,” he told his officers. “I have asked you to meet that we may come to a decision together: Are we, upon my advice, to go forward, or, upon yours, to turn back?”
With the ferocious river destroying their spirits, the demoralised officers and troops were vociferous opponents to the ambitious emperor’s desire to run over India. Also the fears of formidable
defenders who included hundreds of thousands of soldiers and thousands of elephants were other factors that saw his plans go awry.The Beas (known as Vipasa in Sanskrit) brought an abrupt end to the over-ambitious Alexander, who retreated to Babylon and died less than three years later in his early 30s.
Originating at a height of more than 14,000 ft from Beas Kund, a holy lake, the river passes from the Rohtang Pass – a path cut with his ‘trishul’ by Lord Shiva – and traverses through the mountains and valleys of Himachal Pradesh including the Kulu, Mandi and Kangra ranges, crosses the Sivalik hills in Punjab before joining the Sutlej. The Beas runs for about 470 km.
The river has been referred to as the Arjikuja in the Vedas and was also known as Bipasha. Many ancient sages were impressed by the river and are said to have performed penance by its side.
and hydroelectric power generation.
The perennial water supply from the Beas was seen as a potential to generate at least 1,000 MW of power in the 1950s. The project was approved in the early 1960s and completed by 1977.
However, controversies surrounding the river rage faster than the waters of the Beas.
Last November, the Supreme Court declared that Punjab had reneged on its promise to share the waters of the Ravi and Beas with Haryana by unilaterally enacting the controversial Punjab Termination of Water Agreements Act of 2004.
The apex court ruled that the enactment of the Punjab Satluj Yamuna Link Canal Land (transfer of proprietary rights) bill in 2016 by the state government was an unwarranted development as the Presidential reference of the controversy was still pending in the court.
It also decried the state government’s move as illegal, which was designed to terminate a 1981 agreement between Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan to reallocate the waters of the Ravi and Beas in “overall national interest and for optimum utilisation of the waters.”
But last month, Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh warned that if the final judgment went against his state, it would emerge as a national problem, leading to a revival of militancy in the region.
Unfortunately, river disputes in India have embroiled several states in the recent past, dragging top courts to try to settle simmering disputes.
The waters of the Beas – which over the centuries inspired sages, poets and writers to create wonderful ideas and stories – are tragically caught in a raging dispute that threatens to upset the quiet of the valleys.
Maharishi Vyas, author of the Mahabharata, meditated by the Arjikuja. So too did other sages including Narad, Vashisht, Vishwamitra and Parasuram.
Unfortunately, the Beas – which along with the Satluj and the Ravi forms the three eastern rivers of the Indus system has been at the centre of a raging, decades-old controversy between Punjab and Haryana over the sharing of its waters.
Dr A.N. Khosla, a brilliant engineer and a confidant of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, conceived of the Beas-Sutlej link project, which envisaged development of irrigation